Thursday, October 30, 2008

the wireless war

1)CWNs are community wireless networks that promote and develop decentralized, community owned networks. By offering wireless networks that are open to communities, CWNs can help bridge the “Digital Divide.” This divide is the gap in societies between the wealthy with quick access to the internet and those who do not. Creating a wireless network that can span an entire community will allow internet access to those who normally do not have it. This type of a community can be paid for through tax dollars. When everyone can access the internet, communities can promote more local content and a more democratic culture.

2) Wireless companies are set out to protect their monopoly by eliminating competition. Companies are preying on public ignorance to sell poor products and maintain control over a wide range of electronic and wireless devices. For example, the Centrino notebook bundle is advertised to suggest that a consumer must buy the entire bundle to receive its advantages. However, many of the laptops have superior wireless services provided by other companies. The consumers, however, buy the bundles because it is convenient and they believe they must buy the same brand to have the advantages of the laptop. Often times tech companies will make their hardware not compatible with another brand's hardware to force the consumers to buy their products. Bundles do not guarantee the consumer the best services.

3) Through corporate consolidation, fewer companies are controlling more of the wireless market. This consolidation is creating a dangerous monopoly over wireless networks. When companies buy out each other and consolidate into one, they set the prices and rates over both networks, eliminating competition. For example, Cingular now includes AT&T under its umbrella. Cingular now sets the price for former AT&T customers. Oddly enough, they are alsso using Sprint networks. When competition is removed the corporations have a dangerous advantage over the customers where they can raise the prices to provide poor service.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Money, Money, Moneyyy

Paul Grignon created a video in a simple, cartoon form to explain the complexity behind our monetary system. His video traces the history of money back to the era of the goldsmith. Money used to be tangible. Then bankers began the interest system to generate more money to make a living and maintain bank operations. This simple system has spiraled into our society and others living in perpetual, accelerating debt. Banks are using debt to create loans. They are essentially creating money that is not backed up in paper. When the loans are paid back with interest, the bank profits and seemingly no one is affected by this trick.

If I wasn’t shown this video in class I would have continued to live a life of ignorant bliss, completely unaware of the corrupt, damaging system around me. As a communications and journalism major, numbers are not “my thing.” I pride myself when I balance my checkbook and cringe when I think of my own personal debt I’ve accumulated. I’ve taken out many loans for my education and haven’t given much thought as to where this money was coming from. I assumed my lender, Sallie Mae Student Loans, was this wealthy lending tree handing out large sums of money to students each year. They too are apparently handing me worthless checks that I’ll be paying them back for over the next ten years of my life. It’s a difficult concept to grasp how businesses can sustain with the constant cycle of loans, debt, and accumulating interest.

3. How can a money system based on perpetual accelerating growth be used to build a sustainable economy?

As radical as it seems, society and the economy could not do without debt. This perpetual cycle of debt, loans, and interest is needed. However, this system is effective in moderation. When the loans are paid back in a timely manner with interest, money is created and banks profit. The loans are used to help citizens further the economy either by using them for educational or business purposes. It is a win-win situation. However, when too many loans are given out and not paid back in a reasonable time span, the debt that is created grows exponentially. A sustainable economy is dependent upon using resources properly, increasing investments, promoting stability along with competition, and developing skills. Debt in moderation can promote these factors of a sustainable economy. However, when it gets out of control, the nation will cripple and it will be up to the government to make the money, not the elite group of dominant bankers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dear FCC...

The debate over media broadcast ownership is ongoing. The FCC is making efforts to localize media because the public deserves the right to diverse, competitive, representative media. Their efforts have been small, however, as citizens are still expressing their concerns. The people want to reclaim the airwaves and determine what is played and who has ownership. The FCC is still faced with some critical questions...

1) Do broadcasters use radio and television to quickly and effectively respond to the local communities needs and interests? Give examples to support your answer.
Broadcasters are on the right track to localise media, but they are still not there yet. The large majority of television stations are national stations, such as NBC, CBS, MTV, Food Network, etc. I believe there may be one or two television stations that cater to my specific region, but they are underfunded and rarely show programming that is of any use to me. Radio tends to be more localized, although all radio stations follow the same cookie cutter format. In 2003, Powell created the Localism Task Force to allow citizens to tell the members of the FCC how their broadcasters were serving localism and diversity. However, Powell made no effort to loosen the ownership rulings. The people of San Antonio were outraged because the FCC was not making decisions in their best interests. I feel that if the FCC were to come to my hometown, they would be received in a similar fashion because our media is simply not localized.

2) Are there certain kinds of local programming (Public Media Values) that should be available, but are not being provided by broadcasters? what could some examples of these be?
It is important to localize media so the entire nation is not being fed the same homogenized information. At Marist College, we have the campus news station, MCTV. This station serves as a channel for students interested in radio/tv/film to produce their work. However, during difficult times on campus, such as an emergency, MCTV has been used as a vehicle for communication. For example, three years ago when I was a freshman, a student died due to meningitis. The station served as a channel to remember the student and to warn other students how to protect themselves against such an illness. This channel is not enough, however. I live in CT and I only know of one station that occasionally shows programs catered to my neck of the woods. Similarly, when there is an emergency in my county there should be a local TV station to turn to to get the inside scoop. Informative stations desperately need to be more localized, although I don't think it's necessary to localize entertainment shows, unless they are highlighting town events.

3)What could the Federal Communication Commission do to promote localism in broadcasting? Explain three of these examples of public-service-oriented projects that are already in process across the US.

There are a number of public-service-oriented projects set in motion across the US to promote localism. One example are municipal broadband systems and community wireless networks. These systems provide inexpensive access to up to date technology parallel to public utilities. Another example are public-interest wireless broadband projects. This allows the public to access the airwaves with high-speed as opposed to sectioning it off for different users. This is a cost effective way for universal broadband access to television, voice, and the Internet. One public service project that is facing controversy are noncommercial community radio stations. Many of these have been shut down, however, out of fear by the National Association of Broadcasters that these stations will cause air wave interference and take away from their listeners.

These public-service-oriented projects are facing many obstacles. They need to get the support they need to aid in the effort to localize programming. This is a subject that has outraged the nation and it is time the FCC starts listening.

The 2008 Presidential Election as Seen through the Struggling Free Press

Robert McChesney makes a number of claims of how the press system is failing in America. His arguments can be related to one of the most important political issues of the moment, the 2008 presidential election. This election is dominating every mass media communication channel and in many ways the candidates have become pop icons and their campaigns have become a reality series. The press influences the public and is responsible for the information they receive. The relationship between our democracy and the press is strong and therefore there needs to be a great deal of responsibility with the press in terms of what material they deliver.

McChesney notes that the majority of Americans who vote are wealthy, upper class citizens. Every election, politicians and celebrities alike encourage the public to go out and vote. However, come Election Day, it appears to be mainly that upper echelon of Americans who actually do. This results in a dangerous cycle of political corruption. Each candidate claims to be the man of the people. In the third 2008 presidential debate, Obama continues to stress his dedication to the working, middle America class. McCain does that same by expressing his desire to reach all Americans and let them experience the “American Dream.” One of the most notable figures from the debate, perpetuated by the media as well, was “Joe the Plumber.” Joe the Plumber is a celebrity in his own right now, as the whole nation is debating whether he’s your average, working American being cheated by high taxes, or an overwhelmingly successful citizen whose quarter of a million dollar a year income puts him above and beyond the classification of working America.

The media is very much responsible for how the candidates, and even Joe the Plumber, are viewed by the public. Media corporations are responsible for creating negative ad campaigns and for airing them. News stations themselves are undeniably biased as well. If you chose to watch the debate on MSNBC, you’re going to get drastically different post debate coverage than if you watched Fox News.

It is important to restore honesty and integrity back into the media. With the demise of mainstream media comes the demise in the success of our political system.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Strange Culture

After the sudden death of his wife, Steve Kurtz suddenly came under fire when officials got suspicious of scientific equipment in his house. The FBI became immediately involved in what became a whirlwind investigation into Kurtz’s private life. Kurtz was a professor at SUNY Buffalo and was doing research as an amateur scientist into the dangers of the bio tech industry and food. He had been doing research for years and now the FBI was pulling at anything to link Kurtz to a case of bio terrorism. They arrested him on a mailing fraud, claiming he and his partner, Ferrell, did not produce the proper paperwork for the bacteria they had ordered. They also became suspicious at the minimal Arabic writing found on an invitation to an art show.

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI was able to use any trace of evidence in an attempt to convict Kurtz of being an agent of terror. The charges were eventually dropped, however it is arguable that if Kurtz was not a professor and a public figure in the Buffalo community, he would not have had the resources to overturn the charges. The FBI was manipulating their evidence and punishing Kurtz and Ferrell for nothing more than collaborating, sharing materials, information, and trust. This is a huge violation of the justice process and an abuse of power by the FBI. Kurtz’s influence in the community made it possible for him to raise awareness and support. However, an everyday citizen may not have the same power to voice his thoughts if he came under the same investigation.

Cult of the Amateur

Thursday, October 2, 2008

IBM...Monitoring your every move

Never did the idea of Big Brother become clearer than when I interned with IBM this past summer. There are over 400,000 people working for IBM globally. One would think there would be some sense of anonymity working for a company that large. On the contrary, this corporate giant has found ways to track every move and thought from its employees, often without them knowing.

A friend of mine, a fellow IBM communications intern, worked in Somers, New York this past summer. She was a hard worker and skilled graphic designer. Her manager, however, was notorious for being flakey, unprofessional, and was going through a divorce and brought his emotional problems to the office far too often. My friend often emailed her manager for guidance on certain assignments or would come to his office when he was available. The manager would respond inappropriately, with questions about her personal life or comments about music he would hear that reminded him of her. My friend was quiet and preferred to not make waves and just deleted the emails and quietly worked on her assignments. At the end of the summer, upper communications management contacted her boss about an assignment that had not been completed. He placed the blame on his “irresponsible” intern. My friend stood up to him and said that she had contacted him numerous times about the assignment and his responses were not constructive. Though the emails had been deleted, upper management was able to access the old emails that were embedded in the system and were able to see everything exchanged between the two employees. I was not around to hear the end of the story in August, although I believe there was talk to have the manager fired.

Accessing emails isn’t the only way IBM tracks its employees. Every employee has a badge with a magnetic strip. Every time you enter a building, hallway, cafeteria, printer hub, and often times a bathroom, one must swipe into it, and somewhere there is a huge database collecting the information on every step we take. Another feature on the IBM intranet service is a program called “Blue Pages.” This is a reference guide to contact every employee in the company. It is mandatory upon hire that employees fill out this page to make communication easier. Although I often loved the freedom to reference phone extensions and email addresses quickly, I often felt uncomfortable having a page display my photo, my cubicle location, the hours I worked, and where I went to school. In addition to Blue Pages, IBM has a number of internal social networking sites that are often made mandatory for employees to use. Many of these policies were made to ensure the safety of its employees or to make the flow of communication easier. It doesn’t, however, protect us if there is a bad egg in the company who will abuse this personal information.